St. Margaret Mary was only one of many who found consolation in the Heart of the Savior.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a pious custom that can be traced back to the 12th century. However, it wasn’t until the heavenly visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century that the devotion spread like wild fire.
It is a devotion, according to the Directory on Popular Piety, that “denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being, and his person considered in its most intimate essential: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite charity, principal of salvation and sanctification of mankind. The ‘Sacred Heart’ is Christ, the Word Incarnate, Savior, intrinsically containing, in the Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and for his brothers.”
Over the centuries countless saints have found consolation in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and made it the “heart” of their own spiritual life.
Here are five saints who dedicated their lives to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and who did what they could to promote the praiseworthy devotion in the Church and in the world.
St. Lutgardis of Aywières
Born in the 12th century, Lutgardis ended up in a Benedictine monastery not because she felt a call to religious life, but because her dowry was lost. This appeared to be a good alternative at the time to maintain her dignity. However, while her intentions for entering were not ideal, she eventually became very devout and started to receive visions of Jesus and his pierced heart. In one of her visions she experienced an “exchange of hearts,” where Jesus asked her: “What, then, do you want?” She said, “I want Thy Heart.” In response, Jesus said, “You want My Heart? Well, I too want your heart.” Lutgardis then proclaimed: “Take it, dear Lord. But take it in such a way that the love of Your Heart may be so mingled and united with my own heart that I may possess my heart in Thee, and that it may always remain there secure in Your protection.”
St. Gertrude the Great
At an early age Gertrude was entrusted to a monastic community, and by age 25 she began receiving heavenly visions. This 13th-century saint wrote down her visions, which helped elaborate this new devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She also wrote a prayer to the Sacred Heart that is a favorite of many: “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life, Your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love. You are my refuge and my sanctuary. O my adorable and loving Savior, consume my heart with the burning fire with which Yours is aflamed. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love. Let my heart be united with Yours. Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things. May Your Will be the rule of all my desires and actions.”
St. Veronica Giuliani
A Poor Clare nun in the 17th century, Veronica chose the name because of its association with Jesus’ sacred Passion. She worked humbly in the convent, but eventually received the gift of the stigmata, bearing the physical wounds of Christ on her body. During a General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about her life and devotion to the Sacred Heart, “In every page of her writings Veronica commends someone to the Lord, reinforcing her prayers of intercession with the offering of herself in every form of suffering. Her heart dilated to embrace all ‘the needs of the Holy Church,’ living anxiously the desire for the salvation of ‘the whole world’… Veronica cried: ‘O sinners… all men and all women, come to Jesus’ heart; come to be cleansed by his most precious blood…. He awaits you with open arms to embrace you.’”
St. Michael Garicoïts
Born in the 19th century, Michael Garicoïts grew up during the French Revolution and saw his family shelter priests during the persecution. He eventually felt a desire to become a priest and while in charge of a Marian shrine, was inspired to start his own religious congregation dedicated to the Sacred Heart. The priests of his congregation would evangelize through missions and in teaching the young. John Paul II, in a letter to the institute St. Michael founded, praised the source of their spirituality, “Today, by living the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus ‘consumed by love for us,’ the priests of your institute are following an admirable school for their personal life and for their missions. They will let themselves be led by the Spirit, in order to serve the Church according to the heart of God, by giving themselves totally, through love, for their brothers and sisters’ salvation.”
St. Peter Julian Eymard
A humble French priest during the 19th century, Eymard sought above all things to promote devotion to the Holy Eucharist. Connected to this devotion was a love of the Sacred Heart. He wrote a series of reflections on the Sacred Heart, where he explained, “Devotion to the Sacred Heart has a twofold object: it honors first with adoration and public worship the Heart of flesh of Jesus Christ, and secondly the infinite love with which this Heart has burned for us since its creation, and with which it is still consumed in the Sacrament of our altars.”